Just last year Prof. Russel Botman spoke. His words were the Quote of the Day in Africa News on 23 July 2018: “Africa needs a new generation of responsible leaders who will be willing to place the public good before self-interest”, spoken at an earlier Talloires Network gathering. He continues to speak. It is in community engagement that universities can contribute to, increase and sustain the impact on transforming our country, continent and the world.
It is in this new generation of leaders that the Russel Botman Bursary Fund is investing. At the Russel Botman Memorial Lecture 2019, we are introducing four repeat recipients along with five young women and men as first-time recipients. These students at Stellenbosch University are all worthy of benefitting from the legacy that Russel Botman has established in his lifetime. He hoped for a better, transformed future and started working towards it. These recipients need our support and moreover, call on us to donate to the bursary fund. All of them are committed to making that difference in communities, society and the earth.
“Prof. Russel Botman is an inspiration to all and never afraid to challenge and aim to adjust inequality, oppressions, discriminations and injustices…” says Hayden Damon, a B Social Work III student recipient. Eradicating these social issues takes commitment, dedication, yes and also donations. Invest in the new generation of African leaders and let them thrive without financial constraints. The bursary fund serves students from all over South Africa, urban and rural, women and men, from a variety of study courses. We need all of them for a better future. We rely on them. Donate to the Russel Botman Bursary Fund so that our future African leaders can rely on us to get us all to a better place.
Prof. Russel Botman established a bursary fund in his name with the hope of finding new ways towards a new society. He recognised that access to Stellenbosch University should be broadened beyond its apartheid, historical or traditional intake. He knew that with greater inclusivity conditions, SU will be conducive to establishing new traditions and by implication, a new heritage for generations to come.
With the horrific events particularly at the end of Women’s Month in August, we entered Heritage Month. Under this dark cloud of extreme incidences of violence, violations of human rights and violent crimes against women, in particular, we have to take his legacy of including women in decision making positions in his spheres of influence and create study and bursary opportunities to work towards this new society. We salute the 2019 recipients for their dedication towards their studies as well as their efforts to distinguish themselves in the communities where they find themselves. Together with the two men, these seven women are committed to being voices against abuse and violence, and voices for a new heritage.
We are also proud that one of our recipients is an elected SRC member who ran his campaign in recognition of the Russel Botman legacy and its legitimate place at the current SU. In this tradition, we wish to appeal to you to support the Russel Botman Bursary Fund with your generous donations. Without your donations, we cannot create bursary opportunities for women and men to help establish a new heritage which is more equal, just and free in our communities and society.
Reflecting on the past
At the end of this month of June 2019, we commemorate Prof Russel Botman who passed away five years ago. This constitutes a full term of office as far as academic positions go. It is therefore customary to do some reflection on the term. Some of the questions we ask ourselves are: What have we achieved? What remains to be done? What could we have done differently?
Starting up the fund
As the Russel Botman Bursary Fund, we have created a platform for gaining funding to grant deserving and talented students that would otherwise be economically excluded, a chance to be educated. He started on this path on 18 October 2013 by establishing the bursary fund on the celebration of his sixtieth birthday. In partnership with Stellenbosch University, he formally established the Russel Botman Bursary Fund by constituting the First Committee and drafting the regulations for applications.
RBBF goes online
Our greatest achievement was granting our first bursary and being able to repeat it every year since (as reflected on the RBBF website). We took the RBBF into a higher gear when we went online: the website and social media platforms were launched in 2016, on the fifth anniversary of the creation of the fund making it easy to use and find. Prof Botman made sure to firmly cement the vision of hope in university policy and we are therefore proud that the RBBF grants bursaries to those who would not otherwise also be granted bursaries by the university or other funders. To qualify for a RBBF bursary, applicants must demonstrate alignment to the vision and values of Prof Botman – qualifiers that are potentially not applicable to all other funds. We expect only the best from our recipients and are proud of their achievements thus far. We also expect of them to stay part of the RBBF community by becoming donors when they are of means, however, this is still something that remains to be cemented in the practices of our recipients.
What would we have done differently?
What would we have done differently? We would have worked much harder at fundraising, for one thing. Without funding, we cannot grant bursaries, we cannot grant opportunities to the youth. Prof Botman passed away during youth month, a fact that could not have been a greater driver for growing the RBBF.
Join those who have already taken up the challenge Prof Botman has put to us in 2013. Get involved. Donate today.
The recent publication of research done by Stellenbosch University in an international scientific journal in an article, Age- and education-related effects on cognitive functioning in Colored South African women begs for the interrogation of the relationship between the RBBF and SU.
Apart from the very eloquent and academically sound criticism in the public space, it seemed as if SU was initially absent in response. Its first official response on 26 April in the form of a media statement was, however, very disappointing. These dehumanising and humiliating findings of a designated population group, particularly women, merely expressed concern about pain and anger the article has solicited. It does not own the pain and anger. It seems to be the pain and anger of “the other”.
The statement has no opinion on the article, the broader research project, and its leaders and even the ethics committee responsible.
After so much damage done to the reputation of SU, a follow-up apology was published on 30 April on the SU website. Although it seems like a long interval between the two, the outcome after discussions and various submissions and suggestions led to this second response. This unconditional and unreserved apology goes a long way to make all feel included in an SU opinion, not as “the other”. The request from the Rectorate for “a thorough investigation into all aspects of this study” is sorely appreciated. I sincerely hope that all does in fact mean all. I hope the why, who, what and how of the entire chain of this research publication is part of the all.
As an expression of the legacy of Russel Botman, the RBBF wishes to state that this Fund does not ever consider race or population grouping, under no circumstances. We only consider financially needy students who are academically deserving with evidence of proven community involvement and leadership, South African citizenship and exceptional perseverance and success achieved.
The RBBF Committee disassociates itself from any discriminatory stereotyping, including and especially in the name of research, at SU or elsewhere in the world.
I am really beginning to wonder about the power and influence of cyber knowledge. In search engines, we can find answers to almost any question or issue if we know where and how to search. I am from a generation where the internet and social media came late in life and it is quite an effort to stay current in the fast-growing world of information.
That is why I wonder how it could be possible that some of the Stellenbosch University students who were called for Russel Botman Bursary interviews would present themselves without any knowledge about Russel Botman, the person, or the bursary fund. Since August 2018 the RBBF has run posts and blogs on social media. On 18 October 2018, the RBBF website was launched during the Annual Russel Botman Memorial lecture and the bursary recipients were introduced to a capacity audience.
With every blog and post, the committee makes an appeal for donations. And the response: very close to nothing. Why is this? Is it a matter of conviction with a lack of commitment?
Russel Botman was a man of conviction and active commitment. Without donations, there can be no bursary opportunities for deserving students. If you are committed, family, friends, colleagues and acquaintances, move to active commitment and donate. Donate any amount. Together we can make a difference in the lives of our youth, their families, communities and ultimately broader society. We had Russel Botman to lead us in this.
In her memoirs as First Lady of the USA, Michelle Obama speaks about her work with the youth. She relates an instance when she took a group of girls on an expository visit to Oxford University. The selection of girls was done by teachers who identified those students who “weren’t yet reaching their potential”. This reminded me of a Saturday morning visit to two schools, one in Mitchells Plain and the other in Elsies River where I accompanied Russel Botman. He spoke to those learners because he recognised their untapped potential for higher education. They displayed the potential to achieve at Stellenbosch University and needed the support of hope at Maties to get there. (more…)
What a day 13 December 2018 turned out to be for the legacy of Russel Botman and the Bursary Fund in particular. Prof Simon and I arrive to attend the graduation of Sandiso Sogula on an unusually cool day during December graduation in Stellenbosch. Sandiso received a bursary in 2016, 2017 and 2018. The Coetzenburg Centre is filled with graduates, parents and guardians, spouses and partners, friends and family, staff and visitors. The first thing we do after greeting those around us is to find Sandiso’s name in the programme. That done, I peruse the ceremony programme. At that same moment, Prof Simon brings to my attention that the Doctor of Laws (LLD), honoris causa (Honorary Doctorate) will be conferred by Justice Zakeria (Zak) Yacoob. Retired Constitutional Court Judge Yacoob received this honour from Stellenbosch University “for his outstanding contribution in the field of human rights and constitutional law, for his unique, nuanced and internationally inspiring approach to adjudicating socio-economic rights, and for being a respected champion for social justice and the welfare and rights of persons with disabilities”. (more…)
On 18 October the Faculty of Theology at Stellenbosch University, The Beyers Naude Centre for Public Theology and the Curatoria of the Uniting Reformed and Dutch Reformed Churches hosted the Fourth Annual Russel Botman Memorial Lecture. This year Dr. Marlene le Roux, CEO of Artscape, confronted a packed Adam Small Theatre with the lecture about progressing from the brutalities of our divided past to the hope of a unified future. As an activist in general and arts in particular, this dynamic speaker called upon us to activate hope. This is directly in line with the life and legacy of Prof Russel Botman and his contribution to the arts[I]. As an expression of this notion the Russel Botman Bursary Fund introduced the 2018 recipients to which Robyn Snyman responded with a vote of thanks for the opportunities the RBBF created for them. These young people represent the legacy of a life well lived, that is Russel Botman.
Russel Botman dedicated his doctoral dissertation to his children, Hayman, Lizelle, Ilse and Roxanne and “to those who will know apartheid only by hearsay”.
On 18 October 2018, the Russel Botman Bursary Fund that he established on his 60th and last birthday, celebrates its fifth anniversary. The recipients, who also only know him by hearsay, are students at Stellenbosch University and have been granted bursary opportunities. It is evident that he included them in his thinking in 1994 through his research rooted in the theology of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German theologian persecuted by the Nazis. In these young women and men, I find that we can, in a certain sense, confirm his impact. (more…)
Focused on the future
Being the theologian that Russel Botman was, it is not surprising that he was overtly future orientated and, in giving expression to this future, he personified hope in all his actions. In the book Russel Botman: A Tribute, both the late Dr Johan Botha and Prof Dirkie Smit attested to this.